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Chapter 12

  • The particular impression I had received proved in the morning light, _epeat, not quite successfully presentable to Mrs. Grose, though I reinforce_t with the mention of still another remark that he had made before w_eparated. "It all lies in half a dozen words," I said to her, "words tha_eally settle the matter. 'Think, you know, what I might do!' He threw tha_ff to show me how good he is. He knows down to the ground what he 'might' do.
  • That's what he gave them a taste of at school."
  • "Lord, you do change!" cried my friend.
  • "I don't change—I simply make it out. The four, depend upon it, perpetuall_eet. If on either of these last nights you had been with either child, yo_ould clearly have understood. The more I've watched and waited the more I'v_elt that if there were nothing else to make it sure it would be made so b_he systematic silence of each. never, by a slip of the tongue, have they s_uch as alluded to either of their old friends, any more than Miles ha_lluded to his expulsion. Oh, yes, we may sit here and look at them, and the_ay show off to us there to their fill; but even while they pretend to be los_n their fairytale they're steeped in their vision of the dead restored. He'_ot reading to her," I declared; "they're talking of them—they're talkin_orrors! I go on, I know, as if I were crazy; and it's a wonder I'm not. Wha_'ve seen would have made you so; but it has only made me more lucid, made m_et hold of still other things."
  • My lucidity must have seemed awful, but the charming creatures who wer_ictims of it, passing and repassing in their interlocked sweetness, gave m_olleague something to hold on by; and I felt how tight she held as, withou_tirring in the breath of my passion, she covered them still with her eyes.
  • "Of what other things have you got hold?"
  • "Why, of the very things that have delighted, fascinated, and yet, at bottom,
  • as I now so strangely see, mystified and troubled me. Their more than earthl_eauty, their absolutely unnatural goodness. It's a game," I went on; "it's _olicy and a fraud!"
  • "On the part of little darlings—?"
  • "As yet mere lovely babies? Yes, mad as that seems!" The very act of bringin_t out really helped me to trace it—follow it all up and piece it al_ogether. "They haven't been good—they've only been absent. It has been eas_o live with them, because they're simply leading a life of their own. They'r_ot mine—they're not ours. They're his and they're hers!"
  • "Quint's and that woman's?"
  • "Quint's and that woman's. They want to get to them."
  • Oh, how, at this, poor Mrs. Grose appeared to study them! "But for what?"
  • "For the love of all the evil that, in those dreadful days, the pair put int_hem. And to ply them with that evil still, to keep up the work of demons, i_hat brings the others back."
  • "Laws!" said my friend under her breath. The exclamation was homely, but i_evealed a real acceptance of my further proof of what, in the bad time—fo_here had been a worse even than this!—must have occurred. There could hav_een no such justification for me as the plain assent of her experience t_hatever depth of depravity I found credible in our brace of scoundrels. I_as in obvious submission of memory that she brought out after a moment: "The_ere rascals! But what can they now do?" she pursued.
  • "Do?" I echoed so loud that Miles and Flora, as they passed at their distance,
  • paused an instant in their walk and looked at us. "Don't they do enough?" _emanded in a lower tone, while the children, having smiled and nodded an_issed hands to us, resumed their exhibition. We were held by it a minute;
  • then I answered: "They can destroy them!" At this my companion did turn, bu_he inquiry she launched was a silent one, the effect of which was to make m_ore explicit. "They don't know, as yet, quite how—but they're trying hard.
  • They're seen only across, as it were, and beyond—in strange places and on hig_laces, the top of towers, the roof of houses, the outside of windows, th_urther edge of pools; but there's a deep design, on either side, to shorte_he distance and overcome the obstacle; and the success of the tempters i_nly a question of time. They've only to keep to their suggestions of danger."
  • "For the children to come?"
  • "And perish in the attempt!" Mrs. Grose slowly got up, and I scrupulousl_dded: "Unless, of course, we can prevent!"
  • Standing there before me while I kept my seat, she visibly turned things over.
  • "Their uncle must do the preventing. He must take them away."
  • "And who's to make him?"
  • She had been scanning the distance, but she now dropped on me a foolish face.
  • "You, miss."
  • "By writing to him that his house is poisoned and his little nephew and niec_ad?"
  • "But if they are, miss?"
  • "And if I am myself, you mean? That's charming news to be sent him by _overness whose prime undertaking was to give him no worry."
  • Mrs. Grose considered, following the children again. "Yes, he do hate worry.
  • That was the great reason—"
  • "Why those fiends took him in so long? No doubt, though his indifference mus_ave been awful. As I'm not a fiend, at any rate, I shouldn't take him in."
  • My companion, after an instant and for all answer, sat down again and graspe_y arm. "Make him at any rate come to you."
  • I stared. "To me?" I had a sudden fear of what she might do. "'Him'?"
  • "He ought to be here—he ought to help."
  • I quickly rose, and I think I must have shown her a queerer face than eve_et. "You see me asking him for a visit?" No, with her eyes on my face sh_vidently couldn't. Instead of it even—as a woman reads another—she could se_hat I myself saw: his derision, his amusement, his contempt for the breakdow_f my resignation at being left alone and for the fine machinery I had set i_otion to attract his attention to my slighted charms. She didn't know—no on_new—how proud I had been to serve him and to stick to our terms; yet sh_onetheless took the measure, I think, of the warning I now gave her. "If yo_hould so lose your head as to appeal to him for me—"
  • She was really frightened. "Yes, miss?"
  • "I would leave, on the spot, both him and you."